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Big firms should report environmental impact - UN panel
May 30, 2013 / 2:17 PM / 4 years ago

Big firms should report environmental impact - UN panel

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) and London Mayor Boris Johnson (R) attend a meeting with members of the local community during a visit to Woolwich, southeast London May 23, 2013.Sang Tan/POOL/Files

OSLO (Reuters) - Big companies should report their impact on the environment in addition to their earnings under a U.N. plan to boost economic growth and ease poverty by 2030, according to recommendations by a panel of world leaders issued on Thursday.

A final draft by a group including British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, parts of which were leaked to Reuters, says the environment should be at the core of development plans.

"Without environmental sustainability, we cannot end poverty; the poor are too deeply affected by natural disasters and too dependent on deteriorating oceans, forests and soils," the 27-strong panel said.

The report, almost 100 pages long, was due to be released later on Thursday in New York to help the world set targets for 2030, succeeding the Millennium Development Goals that run to 2015 and focus on reducing poverty and hunger.

Among recommendations, it says that large businesses should be obliged to report on their social and environmental impacts, in addition to their financial accounts. About a quarter of businesses now make environmental reports, it said.

"We suggest that a mandatory 'comply or explain' regime be phased in for all companies with a market capitalization above $100 million equivalent," the panel's report said.

"The same principle should apply to governments. National accounting for social and environmental effects should be mainstreamed by 2030."

Last year, Britain became the first country to force major companies to publish their greenhouse gas emission in corporate earnings reports. The requirement applies to 1,800 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

DOUBLE RENEWABLES

The U.N. panel proposes goals for 2030 such as doubling the share of renewable energy in consumption, phasing out harmful fossil fuel subsidies and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency from buildings to transport.

About 13 percent of the world's primary energy comes from renewables such as hydropower, wood, solar and wind power, according to the International Energy Agency.

The panel said that it was not presenting a "prescriptive blueprint ... The suggested targets are ones for humanity to aspire to. They would not be legally binding, but they can be monitored closely," the draft said.

The United Nations had hoped to set specific 2030 goals in areas such as water, food security and energy at a summit last year in Rio de Janeiro. But governments fell short, distracted by the global financial crisis and unrest in the Middle East.

"We envision a world in 2030 where extreme poverty and hunger has been ended. We envision a world where no person has been left behind, and where there are schools, clinics, and clean water for all," the panel said.

The report said the Millennium Development Goals had made a lot of progress in reducing poverty. Even so, the 1.2 billion poorest people account for only 1 per cent of world consumption while the billion richest consume 72 per cent, it said.

And it pointed to new threats, including climate change. "We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity."

Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London, editing by Mark Heinrich

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